A series of one-off (`one-shot') In Nomine games about the war for control of humanity's destiny, enacted through celestial influence of pivotal social events, and emphasising the personal costs of success, and the growth from failure. They'll be one-shot games because this will let us take more risks with story and character, and explore areas that a campaign might not touch, and because it'll let me team up different groups of players more easily. The emphasis is based on my own interests, and on what I know of the interests of my play group.
My take on celestials (for the purpose of this game proposal):
What's the purpose of Celestials?
Celestials don't have a job, exactly. Their purpose is to be themselves, and to do as their natures bid them. They have no separation between doing and being, since each action is an expression of a celestial's identity. On the other hand, they are organised, and are apportioned individual tasks. *All* celestials tend something or other all the time -- there are no vacations, (although there is `sick leave'). Everything in the Universe is tended directly or indirectly by some celestial or other.
Word Bound Celestials are no different from any other kind, except that they have additional affinities. Celestials without word bindings are just as responsible for their own tasks as Celestials with word bindings.
The Universe is changing -- new concepts appear and old concepts are forgotten. As the universe changes, so the tasks Celestials undertake change too. It is clear that Celestials have the capacity to create change in the Universe, and also to moderate change.
Celestials and Free Will:
Celestials are not deterministic -- for instance, nobody can tell just by looking if a celestial will Fall, or when. On the other hand, they lack the human facility to defer the consequences of their actions indefinitely. Where humans can build up a mass of karma that defers until their deaths, celestials always experience karmic consequences immediately. Their powers change, their affinities change, even their forms change -- depending on what they've done. Unlike humans, they can't stick their heads in the sand about consequences, and so humans say that celestials have `no free will'. For Celestials themselves though, the question is moot.
What's the relationship between Angels and Demons?
Demons are not broken or second-rate angels, and they're not simply alternative-life celestials. They are embodiments of principles in every sense that angels are, and they are mandated to exist while those principles exist within the Universe. The basic principle dividing angels and demons is the principle of an individual's opposition to its own suffering and destruction -- a principle that demons uphold, but which angels do not. Angels do not consider demons evil -- merely disruptive of the Symphony. The notion of `good' and `evil' is a human artifact, arising for the human desire for survival and prosperity.
In the angelic scheme, demons disrupt the Symphony. This mandates their assimilation or destruction. In the demonic scheme, angels are a clear and present threat to their individual `rights' to comfort and safety. This mandates their subornment or destruction. How angels and demons go about assimilating, suborning and destroying depends on their own natures. From a human perspective, some will seem filled with implacable hatred for their opposition. Others will seem mild and tolerant of their foes. This depends on the celestial's nature, and ascribing human emotions or temperament to these interactions is really a homocentric simplification.
Why the war over humanity's destiny and fate?
Actually, humanity isn't the only possible battleground for angels and demons to war over -- but it is a most fertile ground for angelic and demonic conflict. Humans have intrinsic value to demons because they are a source of power (eg, essence), and tools for demonic protection. Humans have no intrinsic value to angels, except as just another part of the Symphony. Some angels may consider humans `special', but that is a function of the angel's own nature -- there are angels that look after rocks, trees and stars too, who don't consider humans `special' at all. For play purposes we will focus largely on the war over humanity, because that's where the market audience lives, but there will also be many celestials who consider humanity utterly irrelevant.
Animate or inanimate, all mundane objects have fates and destinies. Their destinies are written uniquely into the Symphony, and this is the `best' outcome for that object, because it carries the greatest harmony with the Universe. However fates are not unique, because they come from the private symphonies of diabolicals -- which are each directed towards the diabolical's own best benefit. The reason that demons can agree over human fates at all is the mediating presence of Kobal.
Just to reiterate: demons are not working directly for mankind's destruction. They're working directly for mankind's integration into a diabolical tool to preserve their own interests. It happens that this process is antithetical to the self-interest of most humans -- especially weak and powerless humans. Angels aren't working for mankind's salvation -- they're working for mankind's reintegration with the Symphony, since any disruption is unacceptable to them. This is a more attractive proposition to humans who are weak, but may be quite unattractive to humans who are powerful. On average, it's more likely that an angel will seem kind to a human and a demon will seem malicious, but this isn't always the case -- for instance, consider angels of retribution, or djinns in bottles.
The purpose of this approach is to make both angels and demons playable without becoming `good guy'/`bad guy' caricatures, and to keep humans from becoming tools and objects in the game. Some humans will naturally want to side with heaven; some will find it better for themselves to side with hell -- these should both be considered reasonable and sane choices, from a human perspective.
The purpose of dissonance and discord
Players in this game should expect to generate and lose dissonance and discord during the course of the story. This is part of the purpose of the game -- to see how the characters will respond to different challenges, and to see how they fare with the consequences. Some angels will Fall, some demons will be redeemed, and some may be destroyed, or move on to greater things. Not every character will achieve its own goals, but in succeeding or in failing, each should contribute to an enjoyable and absorbing overall story.
What kinds of characters are suited for this game?
Because the focus of the game is celestial interaction with human history, human history plays a big part in the character hooks for a celestial. There's little scope for playing `blow in' characters, fresh down from heaven to do a single job before disappearing again. There's more scope to play characters with a long involvement in human affairs, who've played pivotal roles in past events, and who have built up knowledge, skills, friendships, enmities and attachments for people, places and things. Characters can be re-used from earlier stories, but there is no guarantee of long term playability or survivability of any individual character. Characters are expected to come with a history of successes and failures to help create story and character hooks.
There's no problem with playing a diabolical character. For diabolicals in this game the important thing is to focus on the threats, fears and aspirations of such a character, and how it responds to these threats. While it may take delight in causing human suffering, that delight should be related directly to the basic demon instinct in this play framework: to survive and prosper.
Human characters -- especially powerful humans, also have a strong place in the game. Their own choices can have as much of an effect on the War as the choices of celestials.
Mechanics, Power levels and House Rules
Because the games are all to be one-shots, power balance is not a big issue. It should be easy to create characters with Distinctions, with extra Resources etc... if the concept suits the storyline we're running. Similarly, it should be possible to mix gremlins with Soldiers with Celestials, if that would help the storyline. Likewise, the mechanics may be loose or tight depending on what we need. Mechanics are not guaranteed to be consistent between games. In some games we may dispense with the rules for Essence, say, because they get in the way of the issues. In other games we might do lots of Essence bookkeeping if the story is about being pushed right to the edge of your resources.
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Elizabeth McCoy <email@example.com>
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